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THE

FORTUNES OF CYRIL DENHAM.

CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY.

I MUST begin by premising that I am in no wise the heroine of my story. Indeed, I shall sometimes drop the first person altogether, and narrate the experiences I wish to record, in the usual fashion of talewriters, who are supposed to be everywhere, see all that passes, hear all that is spoken, and themselves keep silence, till a fitting period arrives.

Still, I suppose, I ought to say a few words at starting about myself, since the reader will naturally desire to know something about one who was, though in a very minor degree, an actor in the varied scenes which will be described in these pages. My name is Janet Anstruther; I am Scotch born, an orphan, of good family, and comfortable property. I have no near relations living, neither can I boast of many cousins, in the second, third, or even fourth degree; and yet I have many friends, who stand, and have stood to me for long years in the place of closest kindred : and God has been merciful to the solitary one, giving her a place in many hearts and in many dear home-circles, and weaving for her many sweet

and precious ties, which they can best appreciate, who, but for His kind providence, would be alone and friendless in the world. I lost my mother when I was too young to know what such a loss implies: my father, a military officer, died in India, shortly after his arrival in that country; and I, his only child and sole heiress of his fortune, which was ample, but not at all immense, was left to the guardianship of Sir John Ashburner, of Forest Range, situate about seven miles from the ancient and far-famed city of Southchester, in Southamshire. Sir John Ashburner was my father's friend, the friend and loved companion of his youth ; though, in later years, all personal intercourse was unavoidably suspended. He was also one of the very few distant relatives whom I possessed; if indeed consanguinity so slight and so remote can be said to constitute a kinship, I scarcely think it can. My mother was an Ashburner, and I believe, her father and his father were only second cousins; still the name, written in many of her books, and marked on some old remnants of her maiden trousseau, seemed always to connect me in something stronger far than ties of friendship with the family at Forest Range. Also, my mother was Sir John Ashburner's early love; but she preferred another suitor, the gallant Captain Henry Anstruther. This circumstance, however, doubtless inclined my guardian to regard me more tenderly than might otherwise have been the case. I was eleven years old when I went to live at Forest Range, the happy, peaceful home of my girlhood, youth, and riper womanhood: in Sir John I found a second father; in his wife, a second mother. I really never knew the pains and cares of orphanage. My guardian was the very kindest man I ever knew ; a quiet but deeply religious person: he was thoroughly conscientious, most considerate, and benevolent almost to a fault. He had his faults, or rather his weaknesses, as you will see; but in spite of all and everything, you instinctively honoured him for

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